A column in the Deseret News last Friday by Professors William J. Hamblin and Daniel C. Peterson explains the meaning of esoteric and exoteric. Their article describes the roots of these terms, and their use in antiquity. Particularly insightful is the use of esōteros in the New Testament, which has reference to the veil of the Temple. They note,
“Esoteric,” then, in its original biblical meaning, refers to the teachings and practices done within the Temple. This concept helps us understand that in the Israelite world view there were public, exoteric rites and teachings performed in the outer court of the Temple in view of all the people, including Gentiles. There were also esoteric rites and teachings performed within the temple building and restricted to the priests or even to the High Priest alone.
A presentation given by Professor Hamblin goes into greater depth on this subject.
Read the full article at the Deseret News.